My name is Quianna. I’m 32 years old. Single. I’m a passionate photographer and I just invested in a new home with my mother. Yes, you read that right… Single. 32. Living at home with my mom! Crazy? Yes. Sometimes it feels like a dream and a nightmare all at once…
Let me back track and share a bit more of my story and the road that led me here.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been in love with cameras and bringing people together. Organizing dances in the living room with my cousins, planning popsicle parties in the back yard with my grandparents and of course even before it was cool, I was making backdrops for photos at all of our family holidays and school events. As much as I love photos, I have a passion for bringing people together, celebrating and making memories.
Photos are incredible, but they’re even more special when we look at them and FEEL something. Having the ability to teleport right back to those laughs and all the feels makes those pictures even more valuable.
As I made it through high school, photographing my softball team’s shenanigans and very active on our yearbook staff I knew I had a calling for photography, but I wasn’t confident I could actually make a living doing it. At that time photographers looked like middle aged men with goatees that drove Subarus! It’s like women have yet to pave the way for that profession and that was less than 12 years ago!
So I began my college classes with the intention of becoming a 3rd grade teacher. I buckled down on child development classes and even taught preschool for years! I kept finding excuses to photograph family and friends and started getting asked to photograph gigs!
I quickly realized, I’m still young why not try this photography job out and if it totally flops I can always go back to teaching or another career. So I switched my major and earned my BA in Humanities of the Arts – Studio Practice Photography. While I was still in college, juggling school, two jobs (Recreation Leader for the City of San Jose + Trader Joe’s), plus baby sitting and photographing for extra money on the side I got a taste for weddings and was SOLD!
Thanks to my cousin Kim, I had the opportunity to assist a wedding at the De Anza Hotel and I was hooked! It’s like my soul lit up and I thought, “OMG I can get PAID to do this!?” It was so much fun and felt like my calling – not just a whisper, but skies parted with the sun beaming right to my soul kind of calling!
Since then I built my business from the dirt up. I’ve photographed over 250+ weddings, attended and hosted dozens of workshops, invested in higher education and even had the opportunity to share my insight through many podcasts interviews and speaking events. Full throttle. I kept pushing forward to do what I love for a living and helping other creatives turn their passion into their profession, too!
During all of this growth and expansion I’ve secretly been wanting to create something bigger. I grew up on a dirt road in a home my Daddy built with his own hands, with the help of my uncles, grandparents and his buddies. After my father’s passing I wanted nothing more than to get that dirt back or at the very least buy some dirt on a hillside and turn it into my forever home and a wedding venue.
My wildest dream is to create a wedding venue that feels like home and an adventure all at once. I envision a location with beautiful views and timeless architecture so couples can invest as little or as much as they want. In fact, I even applied for a contest to win A Chipstarter with Chip Gaines! We made it to the finals, but unfortunately didn’t win!
Every good dream needs an action plan! My first step as a photographer was to research zoning laws, property values and logistics for actually owning and running a wedding venue! In addition to all of this digging and researching I hustled to create a priceless experience for my couples and photography clients. I needed to step up my game to not only charge more to help fund this dream, but I needed their support. This dream is motivated by my incredible support team that believes in me even more than I believe in myself!
As I started researching property values in the Bay Area, specifically in Morgan Hill, Santa Cruz and even as far out as Prunedale and San Juan Bautista I quickly felt deflated that these properties are well over $1 million + and that’s just for the dirt! No utilities. No water or well. Distant amenities. That’s not even including permits, construction, landscaping and furnishing the venue!
Many times I contemplated just buying the dirt, pitching a tent, stringing lights powered by a generator and booking those pretty potties! But I knew that just wasn’t it. I was confident this dream was going to happen, but with these prices I knew it would be 20-30 years away with the rate I was saving and growing.
No pain, no gain, right? Well, my best friend lives out in Arizona and has been hounding me for YEARS to move out here. Lower prices, higher quality of life and all the big trucks and country music I would LOVE!
At first I thought this idea was ridiculous. I built a business and huge network in San Jose and I couldn’t imagine leaving my family. I was deep rooted and couldn’t imagine tearing my business from such a thriving wedding industry. After lots of thought and convincing… I researched lots locations around the country. Looking for a place with lower cost of living, but still a very active and growing wedding market!
I couldn’t just go anywhere to live cheaper. With this wedding venue dream I needed to find a location that reduced my cost of living with HIGH potential for the wedding scene and opportunities. Scottsdale has a huge destination wedding market and the distance back and forth to California was still doable! Well, I took a calculated risk and made a leap of faith… I packed up my bags and expanded to Arizona!
It started out as an expansion for my business. I didn’t dare to share the word “move” as I didn’t want to worry my current clients or potentially lose out on future business because people might think I just took off to a new area.
So, I reassured my family, clients and community that I was simply expanding and opening up another “office” in Arizona!
After spending 5 months in Arizona then going back and forth to San Jose for weddings and family stuff… it didn’t take too long to fall in love with it out here! I low key, made the decision to officially move out here and continue the dream out in the desert!
I couldn’t afford oak trees in California, but I could afford cactus in Arziona!
The plan was to always find dirt, live in a tiny home and build my dream venue! Well, apparently God and the universe had a different plan. As much as I prayed and hustled for this venue dream, I forgot to consider my own personal home. Yes, living on the property sounds incredible and part of the dream… but I needed a home NOW! I needed a safe space to call my own, feel safe and grounded. I couldn’t just rent from my best friend or tap into my savings to throw money out the window on rent… I needed a home!
Last July, after multiple visits back and forth to California my Mama came out to just check out some homes. We had the intention for her to consider moving out here, but didn’t think she was ready for such a big change.
Well, we fell in love with a floor plan and mom said, “Let’s do it!” With our combined credit and down payment we were able to qualify for this new build without any contingencies on her current home! Everything moved quickly and slow at the same time!
We got to watch our house come to life from an empty lot to our home. From July 2019 – February 2020 our new foundation was laid in Arizona! Everything about this move and expansion feels right. I feel called to be here and my heart is at peace.
Although my game plan has shifted and not at all what I expected, it’s exactly what I needed. My mother and I need each other during this time in our lives and it’s not forever! It’s just the two of us and I’m so thankful for her and this transition.
My entire life I’ve always played the long game. I put a lot of pressure on myself and think of everything with long term consequences. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from all of this is to remember that not everything is permanent and to be open to different possibilities as you reach for your goals.
It’s okay if you’re not where you thought you would be. It’s okay to crave more and want your life to be different. But just remember to never wish your life away and to be grateful for the moments you have right in front of you. Until then, work hard, be kind and always be thankful for today.
I’ve learned that as long as your mission, goals and passions remain the same, the dirt road that leads you there may change! Keep challenging yourself, always be true to your word and have an open mind to all possibilities.
For more than 10+ years I’ve been praying for dirt in 2020!
I manifested it.
I hustled for it.
I bought dirt in 2020!
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